Doc. no.: P1158R0
Date: 2018-07-11
Audience: EWG
Reply-to: Zhihao Yuan <zy at miator dot net>

Concept-defined placeholder types

BidirectionalIterator T;
T it = foo();


We have three kinds of placeholder types to define variables – auto, decltype(auto), and ClassTemplate. The former two deduce arbitrary types, and the last one deduces specializations. So that we can constrain the deduced type to be a pointer type with auto*, or we can constrain the deduced type to be a specialization of std::iterator, but we are not able to constrain the deduced type to be an Iterator. We need the functionality to deduce types that satisfy the constraints expressed with Concepts.


The following example from P0915R0[1] shows a real issue when missing such a kind of constraints when declaring variables in generic code:

template <typename Producer>
void uploadToGPU(Producer& producer)
    auto item =;
    gpuMemcpy(dst, &item, sizeof(item));  // potentially UB

A quick and dirty fix is to use static_assert:

template <typename Producer>
void uploadToGPU(Producer& producer)
    auto item =;
    gpuMemcpy(dst, &item, sizeof(item));

which comes with a considerable distance between our idea and the code we written. Here is a different workaround:

template <typename Producer>
void uploadToGPU(Producer& producer)
    auto item =;
    gpuMemcpy(dst, &item, sizeof(item));

template <StandardLayoutType T>
void StandardLayoutObject(T) {};

which is getting close. Look at this T, it is

It has all the functionalities we are motivated to add. The only issue is that it is a constrained-parameter, declared only in template-parameter-list. Can we introduce such a T in other places?

template <typename Producer>
void uploadToGPU(Producer& producer)
    StandardLayoutType T;
    T item =;
    gpuMemcpy(dst, &item, sizeof(item));

That is the feature we propose – a constrained-type-name.

Design Decisions

Model everything after constrained-parameter.

  1. In a constrained-type-name’s scope, the constrained-type-name can get involved in deduction multiple times, and must deduce to the same type.
template <Iterator T>
void foo(T, std::move_iterator<T>);

Iterator T;
T it = begin(x);
// ...
std::move_iterator<T> i2 = ...;

An rvalue reference to constrained-type-name is not a forwarding reference, because in

template <Copyable T>
void foo(T&&);

The foo is invented rather than intended. Class template argument deduction can model this intention better:

Copyable T;
T &&a = 'a';

template <Copyable T>
struct Foo


A constrained-type-name is not deduced from a discarded statement in a template entity.

template <auto>
auto foo()
    Copyable T;
    if constexpr (cond)
        T v = ...;
        T u = ...;
    std::aligned_storage_t<sizeof(T), alignof(T)> s;

In the code above, T is only deduced from the true branch.

  1. A constrained-type-name is a concrete type in non-deduced context after it has been deduced; if not deduced, the program is ill-formed.
template <Copyable T>
void foo(std::array<char, sizeof(T)> a);

foo({ 'a', 'b' });  // ill-formed

Copyable T;
std::array<char, sizeof(T)> a;  // ill-formed

A constrained-type-name is not deduced from a local class scope that is nested to the scope where the constrained-type-name is declared.

Copyable T;
auto f = [](char* p, size_t sz)
    T x = foo(p, sz);  // ill-formed if T is not deduced elsewhere
  1. Deducing a constrained-type-name must use the copy-initialization syntax. The code that involves constrained-type-name cannot be visually distinguished from initializations using concrete types, but we can limit the points of deduction by enforcing an = in front of the initializer-clause. Meanwhile, it simplifies the semantics because the function parameters are also copy-initialized when deducing the function template parameters.
template <Iterator T>
void foo(T);

char s[] = "";

Iterator T;
T p = s;
T np(nullptr);    // initializing char*
foo(T(nullptr));  // ok
T ep = nullptr;   // ill-formed, T has been deduced
  1. A constrained-type-name should only appear in block scope and have no linkage. In class scopes, there is a complete analysis[2] to show why we will not have placeholder types on class members. In namespace scopes, constrained-type-name itself will have ODR issues as soon as it gains linkage.

Technical Description




    constrained-type-declarator-list ;

    constrained-type-declarator-list , constrained-type-declarator

    qualified-concept-name identifier

A constrained-type-declaration declares each identifier that a constrained-type-declarator ends with to be a constrained-type-name. A constrained-type-declaration shall only appears at block scope.

A constrained-type-name is looked up as a type-name in its scope. In an initializing declaration of a variable, Let D be a sequence of the decl-specifiers that are type-specifiers in the decl-specifier-seq. If D mentions a constrained-type-name defined in the same scope and D followed by the declarator can form a function template argument in deduced context, this is a constrained initializing declaration, and after each declarator there shall be an initializer-clause followed by =. Let I1, I2, …, In be the list of declarators, E1, E2, …, En be those initializer-clauses in order, C1, C2, …, Cm be the constrained-type-declarators of all the mentioned constrained-type-names. Given the following invented class template,

template<C1, C2, …, Cm>
struct f { f(D I1, D I2, …, D In); };

the constrained-type-names are bounded to be the types of the template arguments that are deduced from the call f(E1, E2, …, En) as an unevaluated operand. If the class template or the call is ill-formed, the program is ill-formed.

Any use of a constrained-type-name refers to the bounded type; if the constrained-type-name is not bounded at the point of use or bounded to more than one type, the program is ill-formed.

Examples (not concerning forwarding references):


Copyable T;
Iterator A, Copyable B;


T a[] = "meow";

we form

template<Copyable T>
void f(T a[]);

Calling f("meow") deduces T to char, so the original declaration becomes

char a[] = "meow";


tuple<T*, int> b;
tuple<A, B> &r = b, c = tuple(a, 3);

we form

template<Iterator A, Copyable B>
void f(tuple<A, B> &r, tuple<A, B> c);

Calling f(b, tuple(a, 3)) gives A = char* and B = int.

Comparing with Other Proposals

There have been a few proposals that can address the motivation of this paper: Concepts TS[3], in-place syntax[4], constrained auto[1:1], and YAACD[5]. The in-place syntax extends the constrained-type-specifier from the Concepts TS by allowing optional in-place type names, so I will call their common parts “constrained-type-specifier” and discuss the “in-place syntax” separately. YAACD part 1 and constrained auto differ only in syntax so that I will group them into “constrained auto.” The part 2 makes the syntax compatible with the simple case (a single decl-specifier that is a qualified-concept-name) of Concepts TS so that I will skip this part.

The constrained-type-specifier has two set of rules for deduction, one for simple cases,

Copyable &&a = foo();

and one for complex cases:

tuple<Iterator, Copyable> c = make_tuple(a, 3);

In simple cases, deduction result backfills the type for the variable, so && is treated as a forwarding reference; in complex cases, deduction result backfills the template parameters, so && is treated as an rvalue reference. This proposal, “concept-defined placeholder types” do not make this distinction and stick with the latter rule. The other constrained auto proposals only handle the simple cases and use the former rule.

The in-place syntax and concept-defined placeholder types can naturally express consistent binding[6],

// in-place syntax
Copyable{T} a = foo();
tuple<Copyable{T}> b = bar();

// this paper
Copyable T;
T a = foo();
tuple<T> b = bar();

constrained-type-specifier and constrained auto have no such flexibility. The introduced type names can serve other purposes, for example, in

Copyable{T} &&a = foo();

this T can replace std::remove_cvref_t<decltype(a)>. The difference is that, in this proposal, introducing these type names are mandatory. By doing so, we solved, simultaneously, the confusion (examples in §3.6[6:1])

Independent resolution breaks the fundamental equivalence of the notations.

and the dilemma[7]

We need a way of expressing “same type” for two uses of a concept.
We need a way of saying “different type” for two uses of a concept.

raised in Bjarne’s papers.

The concept-defined placeholder types require a specific form of initialization (copy-initialization) to trigger deduction. But it is hard to say whether it is a caveat or a feature, considering that none of the proposals attempt class template argument deduction from partially-specialized template argument lists[8], which is implied by direct-initialization.


If we add multi-argument constrained-parameters[9],

template <EqualityComparableWith T U>
void foo(T const& a, U const& b)
    if (a == b)  // must be valid

we should also allow declaring multiple constrained-type-names that satisfy a multi-parameter concept at once:

EqualityComparableWith T U;
T a = /* ... */;
U b = /* ... */;
if (a == b)  // must be valid

We may also want to add parameter pack support.


  1. Romeo, Vittorio, and John Lakos. P0915R0 Concept-constrained auto. ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Voutilainen, Ville. N3897 Auto-type members. ↩︎

  3. Sutton, Andrew. N4674 Working Draft, C++ extensions for Concepts. ↩︎

  4. Sutter, Herb. P0745R1 Concepts in-place syntax. ↩︎

  5. Voutilainen, Ville, et al. P1141R0 Yet another approach for constrained declarations. ↩︎

  6. Stroustrup, Bjarne. P0694R0 Function declarations using concepts. ↩︎ ↩︎

  7. Stroustrup, Bjarne. P0956R0 Answers to concept syntax suggestions. ↩︎

  8. Spertus, Mike. P1021R0 Extensions to Class Template Argument Deduction. ↩︎

  9. Yuan, Zhihao. P1157R0 Multi-argument constrained-parameter. ↩︎